UO's newest geologist helped in new research on Deccan eruptions

May 1, 2015 - 10:42am

A newly arrived geologist at the UO played a key analysis role in a University of California, Berkeley-led study that suggests that an asteroid strike off the Mexican coast 66 million years ago triggered worldwide volcanic eruptions that helped speed the mass extinction on Earth.

The paper is covered in a UC Berkeley news release: Did dinosaur-killing asteroid trigger largest lava flows on Earth?

Leif Karlstrom, who joined the UO Department of Geological Sciences as an assistant professor in January, developed a quantitative model that helped the research team conclude that the asteroid triggered volcanic eruptions in India's Deccan Traps, a region of multiple layers of basalt dated to the same time period.

Karlstrom was brought into the project after he had completed a postdoctoral position at Stanford University and before he joined the UO. UC Berkeley researchers Mark Richard and Paul Renne approached Karlstrom about their thoughts on the timing of the initiation of the Deccan lava flows and the asteroid's impact.

"I suggested that perhaps this was a case of triggered eruptions, much as earthquakes often trigger hydrologic events, which includes such things as stream flow, geyser eruptions, mud volcano eruptions and sometimes magmatic eruptions," Karlstrom said. "In this case the scale is much greater than any triggering event that has ever been documented. But we used some results of asteroid impact simulations from a group at Princeton to estimate that the shaking at the Deccan Traps from the impact was equivalent to an earthquake anywhere from magnitude 9 to possibly magnitude 11 — much larger than any tectonic earthquake."